Feb 21 2012
Update: An interesting open letter response in the WSJ nails one of my points below:
The continued efforts of the climate establishment to eliminate “extreme views” can acquire a seriously threatening nature when efforts are directed at silencing scientific opposition. In our op-ed we mentioned the campaign circa 2003 to have Dr. Chris de Freitas removed not only from his position as editor of the journal Climate Research, but from his university job as well. Much of that campaign is documented in Climategate emails, where one of the signatories of the Trenberth et al. letter writes: “I believe that a boycott against publishing, reviewing for, or even citing articles from Climate Research [then edited by Dr. de Freitas] is certainly warranted, but perhaps the minimum action that should be taken.”
The truth cannot be silenced – end update
Background: Some people on the skeptic side of the climate debate do not like harsh and pointed commentary on the forging, faking and mud slinging habits of the alarmists crowd. Personally I cannot understand this, but then again I don’t come from industry (Steve McIntyre) or the news media (Anthony Watts) or Academia (Judith Curry). The level of tolerance to mistakes, etc in these areas is not wrong – it is just very different from mine.
I work in a world were sloppy statistical or inaccurate mathematical work can have horrific results. And where the act of silencing dissenting voices kills:
The Challenger accident has frequently been used as a case study in the study of subjects such as engineering safety, the ethics of whistle-blowing, communications, group decision-making, and the dangers of group-think. It is part of the required readings for engineers seeking a professional license in Canada and other countries. Roger Boisjoly, the engineer who had warned about the effect of cold weather on the O-rings, left his job at Morton Thiokol and became a speaker on workplace ethics. He argues that the caucus called by Morton Thiokol managers, which resulted in a recommendation to launch, “constituted the unethical decision-making forum resulting from intense customer intimidation.” For his honesty and integrity leading up to and directly following the shuttle disaster, Roger Boisjoly was awarded the Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Many colleges and universities have also used the accident in classes on the ethics of engineering.
Information designer Edward Tufte has used the Challenger accident as an example of the problems that can occur from the lack of clarity in the presentation of information. He argues that if Morton Thiokol engineers had more clearly presented the data that they had on the relationship between low temperatures and burn-through in the solid rocket booster joints, they might have succeeded in persuading NASA managers to cancel the launch; to demonstrate, he took all of the Thiokol data given during the briefing and placed it on a single graph of O-ring damage versus external launch temperature, clearly showing the effects of cold on the degree of O-Ring damage, then placed the proposed launch of Challenger on the graph according to its predicted temperature at launch. The launch of Challenger was so far away from the coldest launch with the worst damage ever seen to date that even a casual observer could have determined the danger level was severe.
Emphasis mine. And when reading this, appreciate the valid importance of these conclusions – because 7 people paid with their lives to learn them. Nearly 20 years later NASA experienced another episode of ‘consensus’ group-think when it lost the Columbia Space Shuttle:
To illustrate the organizational problems of safety awareness, Richard Feynman attached a personal appendix to the Rogers Commission Report. It is equally relevant to the CAIB report. In it, he wrote: “It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? … we could properly ask, ‘What is the cause of management’s fantastic faith in the machinery?’”
The CAIB report found these same misperceptions by management and concluded that they contributed to the accident. Both reports also examined the ability of schedule pressures to influence safety-related design decisions.
In NASA we know that exposing errors and miscalculations is the only ethical answer to determining the right path to take. We know that to misrepresent the clear results of data is as close to a crime as you never want to be. That includes hiding divergences and not publishing error/confidence bars.
If you look at the essence of what caused the Challenger/Columbia disasters it was:
- Censoring dissenting views behind the myth that group-think is 100% right – this leads to missing the obvious and correct answers that only a few may see.
- Presenting information in confusing and inaccurate forms that hide the true results of the data – this leads to wrong conclusions by people in the decision making hot seat.
- Obsessive belief in the conventional wisdom as being 100% right (be it machinery or AGW CO2 warming) – this blindly leads people down the wrong path to disaster.
The Global Warming Alarmists are wedded to the very things that destroyed two shuttles and their crews. Which is why I will never let up in alerting people to the dangers of bad data and oppressive group-think. Others can try less forceful corrective actions. But the repetitive, unethical turns made by alarmists actually requires a more forceful response – not a less timid one. Timidity in the face of group-think kills in the face of obvious errors and false conclusions. With that context, I think people will appreciate tone of this post.
Main Post: When the false Hockey Stick (showing never-before-seen-warming) was exposed in the middle of the last decade, you would think the alarmists would have learned their lesson about misrepresenting data. Fudging and hiding data (like the directly measured disconnect between tree rings and global/regional temperatures) is scientifically unethical. In the applied engineering world it could be cause for criminal prosecution.
But no – the zealots were on God’s side. So the ends justified any means. Therefore onward they marched.
When the censoring of scientific debate was exposed in the CRU emails at the end of the last decade, you would think those paragons of ‘ climate science’ virtue would stop their madness and consider how far they had sunk. It was clear that a cadre of self appointed ‘experts’ (whose only expertise appears to be in producing shoddy statistics) worked over time to punish dissenting views and data. They almost succeeded.
The problem they faced? The Roman and Medieval Warm Periods which show up clearly as warmer periods in recent history in numerous scientific studies. These prior warm periods negate the hypothesis that the current warming is a result of human produced CO2 (as opposed to the Earth rebounding from what is know as the Little Ice Age). Did the zealots learn their lessons after this?
No. Instead they trotted out a series of white-washed investigations that conveniently avoided the damning emails from the Hockey Team. Emails that included a clear conspiracy to avoid FOIA laws. A coordinated effort to violate laws is as unethical as it can get folks. So you would think this would cause some to stop and assess whether they were saving the world or circling the sewer drain.
But no. Now we have another step by the alarmists to the dark side. We now have forgeries and theft to create a fictional news story:
At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.
Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues.
Here we have one Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute admitting to identity theft in the act of stealing proprietary documents. In addition, we have another conundrum where facts don’t line up with the claims. From a time line of events created by Steve McIntyre we see that the forged ‘strategy’ document supposedly sent to Gleick actually was created AFTER he stole the proprietary information from Heartland:
On or before Feb 13, the “unknown person” or an associate (who subsequently called himself Heartland Insider), fabricated a document entitled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy Memo”. Its pdf version was created on Feb 13 at 12:41 Pacific time.
Although media that were duped by the fake memo have tried to argue that its contents are fully supported by the board documents, in my opinion, numerous claims in the fake memo, including the money quotes that animated so many articles, are readily seen to be unsupported by the unfabricated documents, as well as being untrue.
I don’t think Gleick’s mea culpa holds up. His timeline of events points to some anonymous source for the start of this, but the document dates point to the forgery coming after the theft.
More importantly though, this incident actually destroys the Alarmists’ claims by destroying their credibility. As noted at WUWT, Judith Curry has an interesting assessment of what is now motivating the alarmists. In this there is a section I want to highlight and expand upon:
There does seem to be an IPCC/UNFCCC ideology, let me try to lay it out here.
- Anthropogenic climate change is real.
- Anthropogenic climate change is dangerous and we need to something about it.
- The fossil fuel industry is trying to convince people that climate change is a hoax.
- Deniers are attacking climate science and scientists.
- Action is needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
- Deniers and fossil fuel industry are delaying UNFCCC mitigatory policies.
Here is another observation in Curry’s post that has me shaking my head, this one from a Mike Nisbet:
Urgent calls to escalate the war against climate skeptics may lead scientists and their organizations into a dangerous trap, fueling further political disagreement while risking public trust in science. A major transformation is needed in how scientists and their organizations engage the public and policymakers.
In my opinion item #4 is the rot at the center of all this. It is this arrogance that alarmists have clung to in order to rationalize their forays into unethical behavior. It is echoed in the snippet from Mike Nisbet. It is also dead wrong. They are not the totality of science or scientists. They are simply on one side of a debate.
The most powerful source of attack on the AGW hypothesis is coming from professional and independent scientists, as well as a number of professional engineers who apply scientific principles everyday. It is not an attack on ‘science’, it is just the alarmists on the losing end of a heated scientific debate and, in response, turning to desperate measures to salvage their disproved claims. The attack on science is from the rot that flows from the arrogance of the alarmists.
The fact is it is people like McIntyre, Watts, Curry and many others (me to some extent) are more than capable of investigating the alarmists’ claims and developing their own conclusions. And their work has successfully pointed out the flaws in the theories, the diversion from reality of the models and the errors in the conclusions of alarmists. In response to their first true bout of scientific debate that they could not censor or control, the alarmists began by fudging and hiding data (the infamous hockey stick), moved to censorship and professional vendettas (CRU emails), through to cover ups and fake investigations, and now on to forgery/theft.
This is nothing more than alarmists losing ugly. This is the losing side getting desperate because they thought they were saving the planet and instead were self destructing. They let their emotions and egos get in the way of their vows of professionalism (which is a frustrating and slow process with no glamor). I have little sympathy for these people. I have no respect for them. I see no reason to hold back.
In my professional world a simple shadows of these kinds of traits have resulted in horrific results, full of pain and suffering. The extent that alarmists have fallen is beyond the pale for many of us. These people deserve a blunt and full assessment of their actions. And the taxpayers who funded them also deserve for these people be held to account, both in their claims and their breach of ethics.